Exploring the Summit of Mt. Mitchell

Except for a rocky promontory in the Badlands of South Dakota near Mt. Rushmore, North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell is the highest land east of the Rocky Mountains. As winter gave way to spring, it seemed the perfect time to make my first climb to the top of that iconic peak. With the Blue Ridge Parkway only recently opened because of melted snow, and with the Parkway still closed just south of the state park entrance because of the ongoing repairs to last summer’s threatened landslide, there were almost no people around. All facilities were still shuttered from the winter deep freeze. It was just above freezing, and snow was still visible in the shadows. The sky was totally clear with no wind. Perfect.

Mt. Mitchell Observation Platform

A short trail from the parking area brings you to the summit marker, and a well designed observation platform that gets you even higher up.

Mt. Mitchell ramp

The view to the south over the ramp for the platform lets you know right away that you are on top of the world. If you ever wondered why these are called The Blue Ridge Mountains, this panorama will leave no doubt.

Mt. Mitchell Summit North

Looking to the north, above, you can see the spine of the entire Black Mountain range laid out before you. Many of the peaks were once thought to be the highest.

Mt. Mitchell Southeast View

The next peak south of the summit has a gathering of communication towers that is visible even from I-40, twenty miles to the east. When you hit “seek” on your FM dial at this altitude, stations will come in loud and clear on every number on the radio. Now try to choose one you like…

Mt. Mitchell Summit Platform

Being above everything, the blue sky seems to be endless.

Mt. Mitchell State Outline

Just in case you aren’t sure about which direction you are facing, a bronze outline of the state of North Carolina in the center of the platform features clearly labeled direction indicators.

Mt. Mitchell Medalion

A bronze marker is placed at the exact summit on the platform.

Mt. Mitchell Northeast View

Turning toward the northeast, above, Linville Gorge and Grandfather Mountain can be clearly seen.

Mt. Mitchell Rocks

Even at this altitude, the rocks are clearly turned on their sides by millions of years of tectonic turmoil.

Mt. Mitchell Balsam Spruce

Most of the trees at this rarefied elevation are Balsam Spruce, and they are dwarfed by the severe weather.

Mt. Mitchell Moss

Clinging to the exposed roots of an ancient Balsam, these mosses have found the ideal spot where they can thrive.

Blue Ridge Parkway Overlook

Back at on Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway just east of the summit, the 5,500 foot vista is still breathtaking.

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